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Hot Fish Club still sizzles with great food and good times in Murrells Inlet

The marker about Hot and Hot Fish Club reads, in part, that it was “established by and comprised of the planters of All Saints Parish” as a “social club [that] was dedicated to epicurean pursuits.” The marker also notes the club was founded before 1816 and dissolved during the Civil War. It was a gathering spot for men fond of fine food, strong drinks and good times that had the grand marsh of Murrells Inlet as its pristine, scenic backdrop.

The Hot and Hot Fish Club was where men would dine on fish and game secured by their own hands. They contributed their bounty to an impressive potluck enjoyed by club members and their boat hands, according to a booklet written by Robert Francis Withers Allston, a South Carolina governor in the 19th century. Titled “Rules and History of the Hot and Hot Fish Club,” it chronicles the quaint and colorful past of the clubhouse.

The original building was on Drunken Jack Island, but a second clubhouse was rebuilt on the mainland after being damaged by a storm. In all, there were five evolutions of the clubhouse, including the third clubhouse that was actually at the home of a doctor.

Fast-forward from the 19th century to the 21st century and you will find the Hot Fish Club and Hot Fish Club Gazebo, where employees proudly share the fact that this place is associated with the aforementioned history.

Long gone now are the men of old, the originators of the legacy. Still, the spirit of those past traditions and fellowships live on at the Hot Fish Club and Hot Fish Club Gazebo.

The restaurant and gazebo are at 4911 U.S. 17 Business in Murrells Inlet, with the Hot Fish Club Gazebo located behind the eatery to the side. Unlike the historical Hot and Hot Fish Club, these businesses are open to everyone. There is even a playground area with slides children enjoy before and after dining with their families.

The restaurant has big, round tables ideal for folks to sit around and enjoy great conversations. Each table seats eight to 10 people. There is also a screened-in porch, where folks can also dine on entrees from a menu dominated by seafood.

“We are the oldest restaurant on the inlet,” said Bernie Miles, general manager at the Hot Fish Club. “The restaurant has a lot of character. There is nothing modern about it, and we have the best unspoiled view down here.”

In addition to being moved by a beautiful landscape, Miles and the owners are also ecstatic about hiring fresh talent – Brian Stewart, the executive chef.

Cyndi Moran, who owns the business along with couple, Phillip and Kathy Bates, said Stewart is gifted. Prior to his arrival to the Hot Fish Club, he worked as the top chef at Sassafras in Greenville, S.C.

“He makes incredible specials,” Moran said. “He is a very creative chef and a very good cook. We have been having some great grouper specials, and we are getting the fish straight off of the boat. We have a great fisherman contact who calls and tells us what he has. We get it and [Stewart] makes something good with it.”

In a couple of weeks, Stewart will be expanding the menu to include smoked meats and fish.

“Brian is very skilled, and he is going to the next level,” Miles said.

Until the smoked meats roll out, however, there is an array of choices regulars just can’t seem to bypass.

“We have traditional fish fries, fried seafood and seven to eight different types of local fish, including grouper, snapper and mahi-mahi,’’ Miles said. “We also have small plates available from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.”

Called Sunset Special, all of the small plates are $13.95 each, with flounder almondine and crab cake among the choices.

The lobster pot pie packed with lobster, shrimp, scallops, crab and vegetables is one of the crowd-pleasers featured on the regular menu. It costs $19.95. Other must-have entrees include the onion-crusted salmon ($17.95) that is topped with Dijon sauce, the Inlet steampot ($29.95 with snow crab legs, shrimp, clams, oysters, mussels, smoked sausage, corn and red potatoes) and stuffed chicken breast ($18.95 and stuffed with prosciutto, provolone and spinach.

The Hot Fish Club Gazebo serves the same food as the Hot Fish Club, but it is designed as more of a bar. It is where various local and regional bands come to play Thursday through Saturday. Some of the bands include The Mobros, Painted Man and Ten Toes Up.

Featured bands play a wide scope of music including reggae, dance and bluegrass. The live entertainment usually gets underway at 8 p.m., with the partying continuing as late as 2 a.m.

“We have a lot of good local bands that come here to play, and we get a few from Columbia, Florence and wherever else we can get them,” Moran said.

If you go:
What: Hot Fish Club and Hot Fish Gazebo
Where: 4911 U.S. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576
Menu Highlights: Onion-crusted salmon ($17.95), Lobster pot pie ($19.95), Hot Fish platter (grilled or fried flounder, shrimp, scallops, oysters and stuffed crab for $21.95) and braised short ribs ($19.95). 
Entertainment: Live bands play Thursday through Saturday starting at 8 p.m.
Hours: 4 p.m. until Tuesday through Sunday, with the eatery usually closing 9 p.m. during the week and 10 p.m. on the weekends.
Directions: Hot Fish Club is the last restaurant on the left hand side headed south or the first restaurant on the right hand side if you are headed north on U.S 17 Business. It is located directly across from Murrells Inlet Seafood and Russell's Seafood Restaurant, right next to Morris Park and the public boat wrap.
Information: Call 843-357-9175 or visit the website at hotfishclub.com.

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